Archive for August, 2008

some dust, some spam

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Do you like Kaspersky Internet Security?

Do you like its effectiveness and efficiency and its features?

Do you like its spam filtering component?

I don’t.

Yup, he never got this email about renewing Kaspersky. Guess why.

In other news, I’m fairly sure I worked on the Addams family’s Dell today:

And here’s why your P4 will overheat and crash over and over and over again this coming summer:

Put your computer *on* your desk, not under it, especially if you have a wooden floor that won’t trap dust by itself. Don’t smoke near it. Don’t run it 24/7 in a car workshop, or *I* get your Mazda’s grease all over my hands cleaning it out.

That is all.

IE7 crash on toshiba L300 satellite pro

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Here’s a weird one for you all: Fresh install on a Toshiba Satellite Pro L300 laptop, Windows fully updated, Internet Explorer 7 installed and updated… go to, log into a user’s account, and IE will half-load the page and then crash horribly, citing an error in mshtml.dll. This was at least the second L300 that’s had this problem, and we were keen to fix it for the future.

New Toshiba laptops come with recovery CDs that re-image the hard drive with a Windows XP Professional install, downgrading from its native Vista Business OS. First thing we tried was reinstalling with a regular XP Pro OEM CD, which resulted in no change whatsoever.

We had a complete fresh XP Pro install on another brand new laptop – a different brand and model – set up in exactly the same way, right next to it, which didn’t have the same problem at all. The only difference in setup was that the Toshiba’s owner had bought MS Office to go with it, while on the other one we’d merely installed OpenOffice (it’s free, go look at it).

Key thing here is that the full OpenOffice install also includes Java. Turns out that installing Java fixed the problem on the Toshiba laptop; IE would simply crash if it hit a webpage with Java on it.

Having figured the problem involved lacking a plugin of some sort, we also installed Flash. We didn’t have time to test conclusively that it was one or the other, but we’re pretty much betting on the problem being not having Java.

This probably isn’t limited to L300s, but we’ve never seen this behaviour on any other computer ever. Possibly it’s something crazy to do with Toshiba’s new-model XP drivers, maybe not. Either way, if you’ve come here from Google looking for a fix, try Java. It’s good for you.

your computers inherit your hygiene.

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

If you look closely at this ball of crud – gently tweezed from within the front of a computer case – you can see the spiders:

Read the rest of this entry »

disc eat disc world

Monday, August 18th, 2008

As serious as this message is meant to be, I can’t help but picture homicidal DVD burners running amok, spitting deadly shards of polycarbonate at horrified PC users.

That sounded less worrysome in my head. *nervously glances at computer*

listen up, everyone ever. this is important. brian told me.

Friday, August 8th, 2008

In a nostalgic haze the other month, I decided I wanted to see Brian Henderson’s final news broadcast from 2002 again. Not having taped it myself, I figured there’d be a copy of it somewhere on the internet. You know, the internet? That giant information system that’s wrapped itself around the world and puts westerners in touch with the middle east, torrenters in touch with Al Gore’s and Jeremy Clarkson’s ideas, and me in touch with my brother a thousand kilometres away?

Well, as it turns out, it looks like exactly one guy ever really had it up for the internet to see. He ran a small weblog that posted random items from Australia’s televisual history in downloadable video form, including at one point Hendo’s last bulletin.

And now it looks like exactly nobody has it. Not in plain sight for anybody to download via HTTP at any rate; most Google results still link to that one blog post, and Wikipedia’s article on the man himself hovers near the top.

Frankster’s archive is gone, now, as of today. From what I remember from reading his final post last night, he’d basically been hacked, and his site redirected to point at some Russian forum full of viruses. Combined with getting his TAFE paper and a wish to get into commercial projects, he had to abandon the project and move on. Inevitable, I guess, but a complete shame.

The way I see it, the internet is our way of preserving and future-proofing our contemporary information, and as much historic information as possible as well. Unlike our personal memories, or meals, or bookshelves, information on computers is stored – you’ll be bored by the end of this paragraph – in digital form that can be reproduced, completely without loss, without cost and at a moment’s notice to a thousand other locations, effectively making it impossible to misplace, eat or otherwise destroy. Even if your hard drive dies – it’s happened to half of everybody I know in the last 10 years, including the owner of my PC repair workplace – your photos, your music collection, your emails and personal notes and deepest darkest secrets can still be retrieved from elsewhere.

Every week at work, someone comes in with a laptop and a forlorn expression and a story about how their 16 year old just installed Windows over the top of some financial records and correspondence, and would we mind terribly much to try recovering some of it for them. I match their forlorn expression, and take down their details, and a couple of days later call them with the bad news. Then I shake my head and wonder how anybody could let it happen.

Seriously, people. Go buy an external hard drive – 500 gigabytes of space should set you back about $200 $150, and will cover the entirety of your personal unlosable data, and that of your family, and your friends, and probably everyone else on your street. Get everyone else to do the same, and then get everyone together once a month – surely you already meet your neighbours twelve times a year out on the street – and swap CDs with them, and go home and copy the contents to your backup drive. When your computer explodes, go next door with a pot of tea and a flash drive and mutter with your neighbours about the bother of claiming insurance on your electronics.

If you have no friends or family, you’ve still got the internet; online backup services exist, many of them completely for free. Don’t tell me you couldn’t trust anybody else with your private things; instead of keeping high school love letters in trick puzzle boxes, scan them in and put them in a TrueCrypt archive before burning them to CD for the swap meet. It’s completely free to do that, and the only way you can lose your encrypted backups is if you forget the decryption password (which also means that your secrets die with you, because nobody else can read them without that same password).

When G-block at my old high school burned down five or six years ago, we didn’t just lose four classrooms. The room at the end was storage for the history department, and we lost some original letters written by soldiers to their families during the first world war. Rock beats scissors, fire beats paper, and nothing at all beats the steady march of time.

Actually, I’m lying: Time beats time. Time magazine’s person of the year 2006 was an excellent choice, and we’re starting to heed the lesson.

I’m also lying when I said nobody has Hendo’s last broadcast. It was added to YouTube on the 10th of July, 2008, and you can see it here. I had tears in my eyes by the end of it – obviously because of the memories that came flooding in from years before, but also because I was one of those lucky few in this world: I got my data back, along with all my hope.

I want you to be the same, and if you’re reading this at your computer, there’s still hope. Future-proof your information, right now, or I’m going to call you back and tell you we did what we could, but the hope is all gone.

fun with the CIA factbook

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Morocco’s page in the CIA factbook is here:

That URL says “mo” at the end. The country whose top level domain is .mo is actually Macau, whose factbook URL ends with “mc“.

.mc domains are meant for Monaco, whose factbook URL says mn.

.mn domains are Mongolia’s. Factbook URL: mg.

.mg is Madagascar. Factbook page is

.ma is Morocco!